Gov’t gets tougher on sex tourism

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Gov’t gets tougher on sex tourism

Koreans caught partaking in overseas sex tourism might possibly not be able to renew their passports.

The organization for prostitution prevention composed of officials from 16 government offices held a meeting at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family headquarters office in Jung District, central Seoul, yesterday and agreed to strengthen the level of punishment for those people who buy or sell prostitution at home or abroad.

The meeting members, headed by Lee Bok-sil, vice minister of the Gender Ministry, agreed to propose a revised bill to the National Assembly that would prevent a person caught soliciting prostitution overseas from passport renewal, and would also make some passports invalid.

Under the current law, only those who have been deported after being caught for prostitution overseas aren’t allowed to get a new passport, but only about 50 people have lost their passports from 2008 to 2012, according to the Gender Ministry.

It added that a cooperative system that would share the information of such violators between the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not been effectively established.

The Gender Ministry said most sex tourists have been caught in Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Unicef estimates that about a total of 2 million children worldwide are victims of sex tourism and about 100,000 of them are in Southeast Asia.

According to a child prostitution report filed by the End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purpose (ECPAT), Koreans are considered one of the key groups involved in children prostitution in Southeast Asia, drawing strong criticism of Korea’s lukewarm attitude toward preventing sex tourism.

Since 2007, Korea has been conducting research in Southeast Asian regions on child prostitution and trafficking and also has held a series of international forums to root out such crimes, but the number of Korean sex tourists has not gone down.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Koreans generate about $7 billion in revenue every year overseas for prostitution and human trafficking, and about 79 percent of the trafficking is for sexual purposes, with some 13 percent of the prostitution victims being underage.

The Gender Ministry said that it will operate Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects that will offer medical services and job training courses in those Southeast Asian countries and also will try to root out prostitution by cooperating with Korean residents in those countries.

In July, the ministry will also open an international forum to find problems regarding prostitution in Southeast Asia that civic experts, government officials as well as international organizations will attend.

The Gender Ministry also said it will propose a revised bill that will punish owners of domestic karaoke bars and hostess bars as well as hotels when they are caught offering prostitution.

It stated that a business suspension of at least three months will be imposed for the first violation and a permanent shutdown will occur after the second violation.

Under the current law, businesses receive a three-month suspension for the first and second violations and are ordered to shut down on the third.

“We will improve our cooperative system with other government organizations in order to root out prostitution and protect women’s rights from such businesses,” Lee said. “We expect to implement these policies from the second half of the year.”


[sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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